I was recently tweeted by a fellow gluten-free blogger an article titled Gluten-Free Labeling in the United States and I immediately took a deep breath because I had an idea of where this was going. I can sympathize with the author because I remember the first time I went shopping after my diagnosis 17 years ago…..heck I even remember the times after that and even most recently when I developed allergies far beyond gluten. It was a nightmare, a headache, an emotional roller-coaster and frankly one of the most difficult things I had to do. Let’s be honest, 17 years ago nobody even heard of gluten, celiac disease and I can assure you options were limited. Times have changed big time and even though the options have increased the headaches remain. Why you might ask? It’s simple, the labeling in the United States is horrible and it can be so confusing for everyone.
I chuckled when I read the part, “I am that lady standing in the aisle, probably in your way, basket on the floor, can in one hand, and an iphone in the other. Even if the product I am looking at has the words “gluten-free” on the label, I still have to wonder if it is gluten-free. I cannot just sigh with relief and toss it in my basket.” I feel your pain, we have all been there and it will continue for a long time I’m sure. Unfortunately in the United States the term “gluten-free” doesn’t seem to have a legal definition and the FDA has failed to fully understand it either. With that said, it seems as if major brands have the ability to not only label products “gluten-free” but do it in a way that can harm those that buy the products.
This article came out at a great time because I’m about to finish my first month on the paleo diet and it really has me thinking about foods in cans, boxes etc. that are labeled “gluten-free”. I was still getting sick before paleo, the nasty brain fog hangover was brutal and rest assured the products I was buying were labeled “gluten-free”. But were they?????
I’ve eliminated processed foods, as well as, foods in can, boxes etc. and it really has me thinking about all that is going on. Since the United States doesn’t have a clear definition of what “gluten-free” means when it comes to labeling products, should we trust it? It says “gluten-free” so it should be fine right? Well, I’ve not been sick or had brain fog issues for the last month because all the foods I’m eating are fresh.
Please note this is not written to recommend that you only eat fresh foods or try the paleo diet. I’m citing those because of how I’ve felt over the past month. I’ve done enough research and lived with numerous food allergies for a long time to know that diets/food elimination affects everyone differently. With that said, here are some tips the next time you go out food shopping or better yet the first time you go shopping after your diagnosis.
- Do some initial online research to some of your local stores to see if they carry foods that are gluten-free or allergen friendly.
- Ask a friend with food allergies to go with you.
- Make a list of the foods you normally enjoy eating to see if there are alternatives.
- Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry or when the store is typically crowded because you will be there longer than normal on the first few visits.
- Ask the store if they allow for samples
- Ask customer service if they have a list of allergen friendly foods
- Read the labels and check for hidden ingredients (this is where having a friend that knows how to read labels will help tremendously)
- Make your first trip more of an exploration rather than purchasing foods
- Download the app ShopWell (it’s a barcode reader which can help with hidden ingredient listings)
- Allow for a frustration day (s)
- Trust your gut
- Always keep a food journal of your daily meals/snacks that way if you try a new product it’s easer to remember what made you sick.
- If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, STAY AWAY FROM IT!!!
- Only buy products with the gluten-free certification label not the ones that just say gluten-free.
- Be patient